At 3:15 am, I hear the annoying harp song on my phone, which might as well be screaming, “Get up! Get up! Get up!” I tap the snooze button. Seven minutes later, the song chimes again. I swipe the cover to quiet the annoying ding ding ding and stumble into my bathroom.
An hour later, I’m driving South on the Dallas North Tollway listening to a fascinating discussion about paranormal activity.
I arrive at the airport, pass through the very slow moving security line, and head straight for the Starbucks line which closely resembles the line I waited in for New Kids on the Block tickets when I was twelve…but coffee and NKOTB are totally worth my time. The rich familiar scent keeps me focused on my goal, and though the line is long, I will persevere.
As I wait, I scan the room, observing the other travelers. I watch the business men and women in their pressed suits, hurriedly strolling through their smart phones. I recognize the families with young children obviously on vacation. When I see a dad and his two daughters, both with ratty uncombed hair and mismatched clothes, I wonder if it’s a long distance joint custody situation and if he has to say goodbye to them. My heart tugs a little when I imagine that goodbye and then replace those little girls’ faces with my own children’s. I offer him a small smile and a cock of the head. I wordlessly say, “I understand. Today will suck.” I could be wrong. They could be going to Disney World, but my melancholy mood says otherwise.
I think about last month when my dear friend lost her son in a car accident. His father flew out on the red eye, just as I’m doing, and I wonder how horribly long that morning was for him. I wonder what the other passengers must have felt as they sat near a man who had just received the worst news of his life.
I see the dad and his daughters again and share another smile. “Cherish them,” my smile says.
I check my watch every so often shocked at how quickly the time passes, and internally growl that I still am not enjoying my delicious Grande Cinnamon Dulce Latte. I’m at the airport, so calories don’t count. (My trip. My rules.) I watch as they start boarding my flight. What once was a very crowded terminal now resembles more of a ghost town. I’m next in line. I look at my watch one more time, fifteen minutes to takeoff. There is no way that I can order, sign my credit card slip, get my coffee, and still make my flight, and I must make this flight. I sigh with defeat, duck out of the line, and run to catch my plane. Last one on, but I make it…sans coffee.
I settle into my window seat, and right on schedule, at 6:00 am, the wheels pull up, and the plane begins its ascension into the sky. I watch the pillow soft clouds build below me and take out my book to distract me for the next hour of my flight. The flight attendant brings me a coffee. I sip it, and before long, I hardly notice its bitterness.
An hour later, the flight lands. I have a front row seat, so I’m first off the plane. I dash through the airport in search of a Starbucks or anything at this point that serves caffeine. I find a little cafe and stand behind a man who immediately annoys me. I can blame my irritation on my caffeine withdrawal, but no. This guy. He wears his sunglasses inside, walks with a hipster stagger, and looks me up and down. He might be attractive if he would take off his sunglasses and stop trying so hard. I just glare at him. He nods, give me a crooked grin and turns around to order his somethingstupidandannoying iced coffee. Then he says to the barista as he signs his credit card slip, (and I swear to God this is true) “I wrote a little somethin-somethin in there for you, girl.” I’m pretty sure he hears my eyes roll because he turns around and looks at me again. I watch him for a minute trying to make eye contact from behind his shades. My mind goes somewhere between a good toe-punch and a hot coffee bath, which makes me smile. I curse my tell all face because when I smile, he takes it as an invitation for conversation. “You flyin’ in or out?” He asks.
“In,” I say expressionless.
I order my coffee which forces me to stand next to him.
“You don’t have any luggage. Day trip?”
“Yes,” I say expressionless. Of course the coffee pot decides now to be empty.
We stand there for a minute. Apparently he dares to disturb the sound of silence.
“Whatchoo in town for, girl?”
I shake my head. I’ll be damned if I tell this asshat why I’m travelling.
“Your coffee, ma’am.” The sweet timid barista saves the day.
I grab my coffee and practically sprint away from the cafe toward the exit.
But why am I travelling?
Because The Cycle has begun again, and this time it’s worse than ever. My mother sits in a psychiatric hospital where she isn’t getting better, and her doctors have called a family meeting to discuss her case and told my dad that they need as many of her children there as possible.